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Updated: 10th February 2019 03:24

Workshop helps visually impaired youth learn to skateboard

A group of blind and visually impaired kids attended a workshop at The Compound YYC indoor skatepark, to learn from a visually impaired instructor.

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'Just because I can't see doesn't mean I can't do some of the things that you guys can do'

A group of visually impaired youth learn how to skateboard. 0:52

Skateboarding might be the last thing you'd expect a visually impaired person to want to learn.

But there's a first time for everything, and Nikita Smith can hardly wait to try.

"I never thought i would have the chance to do something like this," said Smith, 17, as she prepared to step on a board. "We're all in a group, all learning together, it's just amazing actually."

Smith — who was born legally blind — was part of a group of visually impaired youth who attended the workshop at The Compound YYC indoor skatepark.

Nikita Smith, 17, participated in a workshop to help visually impaired kids learn to skateboard at the Compound YYC Indoor Skatepark.

The group learned the basics of skateboarding from someone who they can relate to.

"It's just getting past that mental block," said Dan Mancina, who arrived from Detroit to run the workshop. "It's very mental in the beginning, and not so much physical and you know any skateboarder has to go through that."

Mancina, 31, learned to skateboard as a sighted teen, but has now lost 98 per cent of his vision.

He says it comes down to finding confidence to step on the board.

Dan Mancina, 31, who is visually impaired travelled to Calgary from Detroit to teach a workshop to blind and visually impaired kids learn to skateboard.

"Yeah, you're going to be nervous," he said. "I'm nervous and scared when I first get on my board everyday."

Stephanee Gee, a vision specialist with the Calgary Board of Education, says they jumped at the chance to take part in the workshop.

"Having the opportunity to have skateboarding academy collective bring Dan out, working together to rally the kids to come try a sport," she said "That is not something that would pop up everyday."

Stephanie Gee, Vision Specialist with the Calgary Board of Education. (CBC)

The students might not be doing huge tricks, but for Smith, learning from Mancina has been more of a life lesson than anything else. The teen says she's had to put up with adults thinking various activities will be too dangerous for her.

"Just because I can't see doesn't mean I can't do some of the things that you guys can do," she said. "It really shows that no matter what happens, you shouldn't be giving up on something you have a passion for."

Will Cambell, 11, was ready to try something new, but feeling "sort of anxious."

Will Campbell, 11, attended the skateboarding program to help visually impaired kids learn to skateboard at the Compound YYC Indoor Skatepark. (CBC)

"It's exciting, he said. "If I like it I'll obviously do it more."

As far as Mancina is concerned, he got just as much out of it.

"It's satisfying, and knowing like man I hope I made a difference in those kids' live," he said. "And even if you make one more skateboarder for life, it's worth it."

With files from Terri Trembath

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